Cutting edge abattoir facility hopes to help keep local meats local

A local farmer has a plan to bring a much-needed abattoir to the region that will cater to small- and medium-sized local farms. Cory Priest of Thorpe Farms has signed an agreement of purchase with the Town of Greater Napanee for a building site, and is now hoping to raise $2.5 to $3 million through an equity drive by the end of May.

Some of the Thorpe Farms livestock. Submitted photo.

As the planning for the abattoir proceeds, Cory and Tyler Priest are inviting interested investors and other members of the public, to join them on Monday, May 2nd at 7 pm for an online ASK ME ANYTHING event hosted by Naturally L&A. 

“The idea of the equity drive is very similar to purchasing a piece of real estate, in that the bank requires a deposit if you’re buying a house… So, we’re trying to put together — through capital investment, which is shares or convertible notes to folks that want to invest in this opportunity — $2.5 to 3 million by the end of May,” says Priest. Priest is even hosting an upcoming Zoom meeting for curious investors and citizens to find out more

With that investment in hand, Priest has plans to build a state-of-the-art, federally-inspected, 15,000 sq. ft. abattoir facility, to be known as Thorpe Meats, for the processing of all domesticated red meat and poultry under the same roof. The 10.75 acres of industrial commercial land is located on Circuit Rider Drive, in the Richmond Industrial park, east of Highway 41 and south of Goodyear Road, accessed from Kimmetts Side Road. “The reason we chose this land specifically is that its untouched land in that it’s completely treed. So we’re going to be able to have a nice buffer zone not only for neighbours to see – or not see for that matter – as well as for the ethical treatment of animals,” Priest explains.

Thorpe Meats will be processing all domesticated red, and poultry under the same roof. Photo submitted.

This buffer zone and the large treed area will also help Priest and his company respect the ethical treatment of the animals to be processed there, he explains.

“We’re designing a facility where the animals are unloaded on the ground, just like they’ve lived their whole life, versus being unloaded onto a concrete floor inside a plant. So, we’re treating animals differently at end of life than traditional facilities, as well. A lot of thought has gone into that.”

“This is the start of the food chain. I mean, farming has been around for 5,000 years and people raise meat. Eighty per cent of Canadians still eat meat at least twice a week. So, the meat consumption is there,” Priest continues, noting that, “People have a desire for a product that is ethically and humanely raised, and is free of antibiotics and steroids. So, the places that do produces those products most often are small and medium farmers – they’re not the big players in the industry.”

“We understand the need: this has been something we’ve been designing for two years. It’s not a new project. For 15 years, the area has been needing an abattoir it’s just nobody’s tackled it,” he points out.

Currently, a cow from a small, ethically set-up farm gets sold to one of a few big companies and goes into a huge group of animals to be factory slaughtered, and the meat is distributed to the market. Thus, one piece of steak you get might be the ethically-raised beef, but the next time you get a steak from that grocery store, it might not be as good because it came from a factory-produced cow. “The way the industry is set up now,” Priest explains, “a lot of small and medium farmers grow this amazing product that is just being washed out in a super-commercial product that ends up at live auctions.” 

For example, he says Thorpe Farms currently have appointments booked at three different abattoirs for the next 18 months… all provincially inspected. But Thorpe Meats would be a spot for local farmers to get their butchering done nearby and on demand.

Another fascinating aspect of the plans for Thorpe Meats is that a single butcher will be responsible for carving each animal by him or herself. “The trade of butcher butchery has been lost over the last 30 years due to the uptick in more commercialized processing…because of the speed that’s required and because the large players have commercialized the industry. It’s a conveyor system or a production line, in that each employee makes one cut, but nobody knows how you got to the final product,” Priest details.  

Thorpe Meats has a solution for that too, he says. “What we’ve done to be pre-emptive… is we’ve connected the St. Lawrence College Culinary Program with Fanshawe College [which offers the only butchery program in Ontario]. Currently, those two faculties [have] received a small grant …[and] they’re ironing out a curriculum that can be taught in a quick format here to retrain people if they’re interested.

“We’ve worked closely with St. Lawrence Culinary to make sure they have the equipment and training possible,” Priest says. “We’re hoping that that program is launched in September, and we’re wanting our facility to be one of many co-op placements for that class.”

To learn more about the investment opportunity and the current farm operations, visit the Thorpe Farms’ website.

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